How to Prepare Yerba Mate
What do I Need to Prepare Yerba Mate?
- Bombilla. A metal or cane straw with filter at one end
- Mate. A cup usually made from gourd, wood, cane, horn, ceramic or glass
- Hot water. We recommend 82C and using a flask is ideal.
- Cool water at room temperature
- Loose leaf yerba mate
If you’d like to skip the written instructions, there is a link to a video at the end of this article.
What do I do to Prepare Yerba Mate?
If you follow these simple steps, your yerba mate will not be too bitter, and your yerba will last longer.
Fill your gourd 3/4 full with yerba mate
Cover the top with your hand and shake up and down
Return the gourd to a tilted position and you will see the ‘dust’ on your hand, and the yerba will be on a slant (important for the next step).
This is what you should see:
Next you need to pour in cool water (room temperature is ideal) and allow the water to soak into the yerba. This causes the yerba leaves to swell and prevent blockage of the bombilla
Add cool water
To continue and prepare yerba mate, now you need to pour a serving of hot but not boiling water on the lower half of yerba (82C is ideal so you don’t burn the yerba) and leave the yerba leaves to continue to swell (inchar).
Why? To infuse the flavour, and also so the leaves are bigger and won’t clog the bombilla. Tip: Use the back of the bombilla to pour the water onto – it helps to prevent burning the yerba.
Once all the water is absorbed (after a couple of minutes), use the bombilla to accentuate the ‘bridge’ – make a wall between to the levels of yerba (one half is wet, the other is higher, and dry).
Then dig in the bombilla with the ‘spoon’ curved towards the middle of the gourd, scrape the bombilla down the outside wall of the gourd on the side where the yerba is wet
Now don’t move the bombilla – each time you move the bombilla significantly the mate will be very bitter!
Your yerba mate is now ready to serve – pour water into the lower side of the yerba.
A good sign of the perfect mate is the presence of ‘foam’
The traditional way to drink yerba mate is with a group of friends/family each taking it in turns to drink, but with one person serving. As you have just prepared the mate, you are the server (cebador).
The first mate will be the most bitter, and probably quite cold so it is good manners to drink the first one yourself! Finish it all, then pour and serve to the next person. They will finish it all and return it to you. Do the same, and as you go round and round the group, you should try and keep the round in the same order.
In South America, if someone says ‘gracias’ (thankyou) this means they don’t want anymore, so don’t be offended if no one says thanks to you until nearly the end.
Expert Step: Making the most of your yerba
As the flavour reduces (the yerba is ‘washed’) gently move the bombilla in a digging motion to the other side. As you do so you will turn the higher side into the ‘dip’ where the bombila will now sit. Careful as you do it so as not to make the yerba extremely bitter. If you are an expert you could gradually move the bombilla round between servings. You will literally get twice as many servings if you can master this trick, but it will take a little practice to do so without affecting the flavour on the way round!
Start brewing today! See our starter kits containing all you need to make delicious yerba mate!
Watch the related video:
SO.. as a recap: To prepare yerba mate please follow these steps
- Get together a mate cup, bombilla, loose leaf yerba, hot water and a little cool water
- Fill the cup 3/4 full of loose leaf yerba, place your hand over it and shake, returning the cup to a slanted position
- Add a little cool water and leave to soak for 2 minutes
- Add a little hot water and leave to soak for 2 minutes
- Firm up the “bridge” between the dry side and the serving side (optional)
- Dig in the bombilla
- Serve hot water into the serving side, sip and repeat!
Hands courtesy of Sabrina Fraschini